Micah (active 8th century B.C.), a prophet of ancient Israel, is traditionally known as the author of the biblical book bearing his name. The Book of Micah is always placed sixth in the list of the 12 Minor Prophets.
Micah was a later contemporary of the prophets Hosea and Isaiah. From his book it is clear that he began to preach to the Assyrians shortly before the fall of Samaria in 721 B.C. His writings also reflect the mass transportation of Israelites from northern Palestine between 734 and 721 and the conquest of all Judean towns between that time and 701. Micah was an eyewitness of the siege of Jerusalem in 700 by the Assyrian king Sennacherib. Micah's ministry therefore took place substantially in the last 25 years of the 8th century. He was not of the priestly or aristocratic class; he came from the class of small farmers and farm laborers.
The Book of Micah falls into three distinct parts. Chapters 1-3 comment on the fall of Samaria, capital of the northern kingdom of Israel, to the Assyrian king Sargon in 721. This, Micah says, is a punishment of God for the sins of Israel. Micah then foretells the same doom for Jerusalem because the rich oppress the poor; the prophets of his time and the teachers condone this oppression; and moral cleanliness is not sought by men. Chapters 4-5 foretell the fall of Jerusalem and the restoration of its glory; he predicts that all the peoples of the earth will stream to the restored city in order to learn there how to observe the commandments of God and to attain holiness. Chapters 6-7 contain a series of oracles and denunciations. Israel's ingratitude, injustice, and cheating, the disappearance of godly behavior, and the rise of religious infidelity are all castigated by Micah. But the text ends with an expression of hope in the ultimate salvation of Israel and a petition for God's mercy and a fulfillment of God's promises to Abraham.
Although all seven chapters of the Book of Micah bear his name, serious doubts have been raised by biblical scholars as to the authorship of certain chapters. There is general agreement that chapter 1-3 come from Micah. Chapters 4-5 speak of exile, of the abolition of royalty, and of Babylon—where the later exiles were transported. All these, if taken as referring to the later fall of Jerusalem into the hands of King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian exile in 597 B.C., cannot have come from the hand of Micah. Chapters 6-7 present difficulties of the same kind. One of the chief arguments against ascribing this material to Micah is the element of universalism and worldwide religious outlook. This became a conscious part of Judaism's thought and teaching only after the exile to Babylon. Indeed, in one passage of Micah (4: 1-5) where there is mention of this universalism, we find an identical or quasi-identical, passage in the Book of Isaiah (2: 2-4). This renders scholars suspicious.
Micah's policies and his teachings were much in vogue after his death and in early Christian times. The prophet Jeremiah, 100 years later, pointed to Micah's ministry as justification for his own continual criticism and condemnation of sinners and of injustice in Israel. During the exile at Babylon, Micah's prophecies of restoration were reflected in the psalms composed in Babylon. The early Christian Gospel writers and the early theologians used Micah to establish the veracity of the Christian Church.
Further Reading on Micah
See Norman Henry Snaith, Amos, Hosea, and Micah (1956), and, for background, Robert H. Pfeiffer, Introduction to the Old Testament (1941; rev. ed. 1948).